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Wilson racket maker Amer Sports leaps on $5.3 billion approach by China's Anta

FILE PHOTO: A shop assistant holds a shoe at a Salomon store in Beijing, China August 10, 2018. Picture taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

By Anne Kauranen and Julie Zhu

HELSINKI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Finland's Amer Sports, makers of Wilson tennis rackets and branded outdoor gear, has received a 4.6 billion euros ($5.3 billion) takeover approach from China's Anta Sports and private equity firm FountainVest.

Amer shareholders would get 40 euros per share in cash ifthe deal went ahead, the Helsinki-based maker of Salomon hikingboots and Arc'teryx outdoor clothing said on Tuesday, lifting its shares more than 25 percent.

The offer represents a nearly 40 percent premium to Monday's closing price before the approach was made public.

Amer's second-largest shareholder, a Finnish associationwith a 4.29 percent stake, said it was open to the proposalbut needed more time to evaluate it properly.

"Of course, if the price is right, everything is for sale,"the association's head Timo Maasilta told Reuters.

Amer's largest shareholder, Finnish pension fundKEVA, declined to comment on the approach by Anta, which sellsthe Fila and Descente brands as well as its own home-grown Antalabel in China.

Anta, which wants to expand overseas by acquiring other well-established global brands, has long targeted Amer.

Anta confirmed on Wednesday it and private equity firm FountainVest Partners had submitted a preliminary indication of interest to buy the entire share capital of Amer Sports at 40 euros per share in cash, but no definitive agreement had been reached.

Danske Bank portfolio manager Juha Varis said the offer was "by no means underpriced".

"The Chinese partner (Anta) is clearly more profitable andhas grown faster than Amer. So it makes sense, at least onpaper," Varis told Reuters.

Anta, China's biggest sportswear retailer by market value, reported in August a record half-year profit as its online and offline businesses benefited from strong growth in the country's sports sector.

Anta has said Chinese sports brands must go beyond offering low prices and compete on quality, innovation, value and brand.

"We believe what Anta lack is a more high-end and professional brand such as Solomon, Wilson, Arc'teryx," Walter Woo, an analyst at CMB International, wrote in a research note.

"What Amer lack is a new growth driver, (and it) could be the China market or the E-commerce market," he said.

The Finnish firm said the Anta-FountainVest consortium hadindicated that a deal was subject to conditions including theapproval of investors holding at least 90 percent of its shares.

"At this time, Amer Sports is not engaged in anynegotiations with the consortium and has made no decisions inrespect of the indication of interest," it said in a statement.

The Chinese consortium aims to submit an offer to Amer inthe coming weeks and finalise the buyout deal by the end of theyear, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

($1 = 0.8634 euros)

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen in HELSINKI and Julie Zhu in HONG KONG; Additional reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Alexander Smith and Darren Schuettler)